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Alignment Assignment Stance Get-off/Snap reaction Ground-to-pads/Target Key reads /. Separation 8. Escape 9. Pursuit 10. Tackle

(-3 requires zero talent. 4-8 requires countless hours of practice. 9&I0 require effort. In our practice schedule every day, il is imperative for the Defensive Line ( Dach to implement all 10 conimaiiduienLs inlo his daily practice pian. We will comhine several of them into one drill to minimize the use of precious time in the preparation of our hig men for Saturday.

Defensive Line Techniques and Drills From the 4 3 Defense Part i

By GrcgCrum. Defensive Coordinator Worcester (MA) Polytechnic Institute oaching is a world of give and take and I know that in my last years as a coach, I have certainly benl the ears of many great coaches in developing niy philosophies and techniques of defensive line play. Allow me to present a few of the coaches with whom I have really enjoyed spending time with over the years; SteveTirrell (U-Mass);Jerry Azzinaro (DLike);Joe Cullen (Detroit Lion.s); Keith Willis (Boston College); Sean Spencer (U-Mass); Scott James (Nortlieastem); Dwayne Brooks (Yale); and Frank Chimiend (CW. Post).

A stretch or exercise that is loo long or not easy to reproduce and perform correctly will have poor compliance hy the athlete and will ultimately hecome useless. Flexibility is termed as the ability to move a Joint or series of joinLs throughout a full range of motion. Range of motion is the movement at a joint and is determined by a number of factors, such as connective tissue stmcture, the athlete's activity level, age, and sex. Improvements in range of motion as a result of stretching are primarily due to the connet tive tissue adaptations. Two types of stretching techniques are generally used: (I) ballistir, or
dynamic stretching, the use of muscle

Phis ... special thanks to Head Coach Don Brown and Defen.sive Coordinator Keith Dudzinski of the U. of Mas.sachiisetts for allowing me to spend counUess hours watching their team practice and learning from their successful prognmi. Coaches are the greatest people and I have been fortunate in finding the ones who are always quick to offer up their time and knowledge. I would like to start with the way I preach my version of the 10 commandments and then insert them into my practice plan in the following order:

contradions thai create a boimcing type movement in wbich the eiidpoint

is not held, and (2) static stretching,

where the muscle is placed If we start witli an agility drill and bave our d-line run over the bags, we




Defensive Line Techniques and Drills From the 4 3 Defense

will always set up a line of cones or pop-up bags about five yards apart and bave our d-line run over them. We will have them complete one of the following: a burst (teacbes pursuit), bend, or a pass riLsb move vs. a pop up bag. On certain days we will have our players come off the last bag and execute a fumble drill, knock down a low pass, angle tackle, or convert several of them into a simple multiple drill. Alignment and Assignment. We cover tbis in meetings and a period we refer to a.s "Cans", in which we use trash barrels to simulate the five offensive linemen. TE is relegated to one offiveservice players who make up the rest ol tbe ofFensive formations we will face every week. We tisually dedicate at least 10-15 minutes of defensive practice on proper alignments and assignments depending on the formations and motions that we will face each week. We play a multiple front 43 at WPI and use many different looks to hinder the offensive-line blocking schemes. We will always start in our base front, which we term 72, and move to whichever front alignment we feel will help us. Tbe first number tells our guys we will be in a 43 look (4 down lineman + 3 backers) and tbe second number will tell us wbere the nose guard will align.


3 OC C
A T N/ E
DIAG. 2, DEFENSIVE ENDS' PROGRESSIONS .As soon as the end gets a veer release, his progression will be (1) near iruard. (2) near back, .uul {?) back-^ide giiaixl


Q B (1)

3 O
ANCHOR \ is. Key (TE) Pres. Ke> (T) TACKLE \is. K<:'\ (G) Pres. Kev (T) NOSE \ i^. Ke> (G) Pres. Key (C) END \'is. Ke\- (T) Pres, Kev (Progression)


It is also a [>criod thai wtr can use to evaluate each lineman's stance and get-off, paying close attention to the proper hand d<)wii and foot back and making sure that each player brings the back fo()t up first. A lot of coacbes claim that they don't emphasize this in tbeir daily teacbing. 1 feel tbLs is a mistake everytbing we do as a defensive lineman starts witb a proper stance. My pbilosophy on stance is that I want it to be uncom-

fortable for them, make it the only thing they will be aboutgetting out of it and engaging their man on. Our guys will always start from a 4-stance to get their feet and bands set properly in an attack position. Once ibey are comfortable, they simply pick up tbeir off band to be ready to strike. I want them to keep their backs flat witb a slightly elevated butt so that their first step will get them tmdemeath the blocker. All of tbeir weigbi sbould be on tbeir toes, wbile paying close attention to tlie beels. We want the heels pushed out so that our first step is forward, not at an angle. Our down hand is a few inches in front of our hat and the offhand hangs close to the ground, ready to strike the offensive lineman. The off hand close to the ground ensures us of not luming our shoulders, but keeping them squared up to our man. The only dispariiy tbat f have in teaching stance is that I won't bave a guy use a hand down based on man or gap if it slows his get-off. Tbere are many thoughts on which hand should be down and the only guy whom I allow to play with bi.s gap band down is our 3 tecbnique because of tbe bigb number of double teams he will face, particularly witb tbe 2 back offensive seLs that use a TE. My other lineman will normally always play with his shade hand down. Our stagger is toe-heel witb botb (eel under our hips. We never bave our feet wider than that because it will slow down our get off. Wben facing a passing down, we will elongate our stagger to increase tbe length of our first step. If we will also be slanting, we will even ()ur stagger, allowing us to step witb either foot effectively. We also make sure that all of our big men are shooting tlieir fiands as they begin their finst step. This is the hardest aspect of defensive line play to teach, especially witb young

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Defensive Line Techniques and Drills From the 43 Defense

players wbo may bave never used this tecbnique. We call this ground-to-pads. As we recognize movement and begin to take our first step toward tbe LOS, we want to lead with our hands and strike otir opponent hard or "shock" him. A defensive lineman's liands will tell him all he necd.s to know about his opponent's intent. For instance, if we are getting a drive block and our opponent gets into our grill immediately, our hands will surely strike very quickly. This will alert us to a drive block and we will progress otit of it by keeping our pad level low, rolling tbe hips, and running our feet in order to put the offensive lineman back on bis beels and control the LOS. I think ihe drive block is ihe bardest block we will lace and I put a lot of empbasis into taking it awa). Our guys know that a double team can easily bt' neutralized if we get a great strike on the drive block, forcing the second man to adjust because we have negotiated the LOS. Some of tbe drills I tise to defeat the drive block are set up in a progression, wbich takes my guys tbrougb tbe diffeient skills necessary to acbieve success. Tbe fn^t drill is meant to get them used to leading wiib tbeir hands. 1 use agile bags or shields to simulate offensive linemen and start our guys from a 6-point stance (Hands, knees, and toes on the ground). Using a ball or my foot to simulate movement, our linemen will "shoot" their hands to the target as fast as possible and return to the starting position until movement triggers them once more. We will have them shoot their bands 10 dmes quickly for two sets. Next, we will move the bag off about two yards and I will key the bag-holders to simtilate a drive block. The defensive linemen who are still in a 6-point stance will now .shoot their hands to the target and dig their toes into the gronnd as the man with the bag tries to nm them over. This automatically engages the defensive lineman's hips. As he rolls forward to prevent getting nm over, he will pop out of his 6 point stance and run his feet to gain control of the blocker. This bas been an excellent drill for teacbing our guys to utilize their hip power to defeat an opponent's drive block and gain separation. The only time we really tise the hip roll is to defeat a drive because the other blocks are less aggressive and we reiy more on foot speed to get out of the block. We will then run a live drill from a 3-point stance (both guys) and have them execute all the key coinp(ments we just worked on separately, vs. the drive block. This will give them an opportunity to put it all together and allow the coach to see each player's weakness. Initially, it is almost always the player's first step and

of his hands. Wlienever, we find a problem area, we will use the "fit" drill principle to help onr phiyers improve anything they are having trouble with. "Fit" means starting a drill from a position (stance) out of which you have already lakeii vour fust step. For example, if woiking ihe dii\e block, we will bave our defensive Hneman start the drill with his bands in a good strike/contact position and his hat below tbe offt-nsive lineman's pad level. On tbe whistle, he continues on and defeats the drive by rolling bis bips until he put.s the offensive lineman back on his beels again. Once this happens again, we will compleit- the drill with a good ])ress and biTak down lo lind llif ball carrier. We can also include H tackle drill with any oi" the "fit" drills to work the multiple techniques into a simple drill. The progression and "fit" drills have to be inslnmiental in developing our defensive linemen. This brings us to the teacbing of key reads from the 10 coniniandmcnts. We call all ot our man blocks "Battle of the One" Keys. They are Drive, Reach, Cut-OfT. Veer, and Pull Sets.

FS iAC. 3, BATTLE OF ONE KEYS & TECHNIQUES I E - Drive, Drive N - Pull-Down Block, Cross-Face, or Follow T - Double, Drive, A-Veer w/Tackle Down. Down to Spillbox

Wlien teacbing your players how to deiend "the batUe of one" keys, it is important to tell tbem that tbeir bands must always adjust to the blocker. A term I use is "eyes in the palm of your hands." This refers to the target from the 10 commandments. We are always attempting to strike otir opponents shade-side armpit area and shoot our inside hand across his facemask to tlie opposite breast plate. We will always "grab clotb" wbenever our hands come in contact wiib the offensive lhicinan. This enables us to gain control of i>ur blocker, no matter what block he is attenipl-



Defensive Line Techniques and Drills From the 43 Defense

ing. Whenever we tell our guys to get their inside hand to ilie middle of ihe offensive blocker, we are giving the offensive man the advantage on certain blocks, especially drive and cut-off. letting back lo our first step alwa>'s being straight up field, we are teaching om- people tliat no matter wbat battle of one key tbey are getting, the firsi step must always look the same. If we aie getting a reach block, for example, our second step will come close to ourfii"stin order to push oiu toward the reach and allow us to penetrate the LOS and work our bips ttp field so that we may escape and force the stretch plav back inside where our help is. The defender's hands will adjust to the block as he takes bis first step and uses a power arm techniqtie to get his bips outside the O-lincman in preparation for escaping. Power arm technique involves your gap hand pushing tbe shoulder and you're inside hand pnlling cloih (pvisb-pull). If we get a cut-off block and the offensive lineman is tiying to seal us to our shade, we will simply squeeze him down rhe LOS, using his body as half a defender and converting our power arm. This will give us the opportunity to "see through our gap." To convert the power arm, we simply push with the inside band and pull with the gap hand. We never want to cross-face unless tbe ball carrier bas cbosen bis patb. To defeat the cutoff, we tise our second step to push inward toward the olfcnsive lineman to squeeze him down. Again, as with drive and reach, tbefii-ststep is always up field and the second enables us to get out of the block. Another bktck we have to face is called a veer block (trap, power, counter, option). Tliis is where our man on will not want to engage us and will lake a lateral step away from our shade to climb up on a backer. Wlien we get a veer, we cannot possibly get both hands on our blocker but ag;iin, our hands are assisting us in recognition and allowing us to play otu of it with our second step. As with the ciitHjff, we will push toward ilic bhx ker and jam him inside and move laterally to seal off the area he is leaving. We expect something to come at us, whether it's a backside guard (Trap or Counter for DE's) or fullback (freeze option for Tackle or Power for DE's) and look to take on the next blocker. Defensive ends will often see this block when facing power and option teams. We will discuss the D.F..'s progressions with veer later on. Another man block to watch is Pull. Again, you can't expect your lineman to get hands on, but he can recognize direction and play out of it. The only rule in Pull is to stay bome and read near block.

If the back is downhill, it's an influence trap. If he is out, it's most likely a and your S tech will get a down block from his near lineman or pressure key. If we sec pull inside, we will tn' to get to ihe hip of tbe pulling lineman to avoid the down block from tlie near lineman. If we are inside shade on a pulling lineman and the down block comes quick, we will cross face vs. the down block to add on to the play. The lasl man key is pass, and we will read the set of the lineman to detennine if it's 3-step or 5-step. We refer to this key as "high hat." As we take our first step and shoot our hands, we will not engage an aggressive blocker. Otn" bands will be the first to "feel" this. We use this to help us distinguish between run or pass. We will evahiate our opponent eveiy week to detennine any "tells" in their passing game. Offensive lines use many pro tection schemes for 3/5/7 step, bootleg, and sprint pass. As a result, we will work on our opponents' schemes every week to prepare our defensive line. One point we work on religioiLsly is tbe handling of hard-setting oflensive linemen wbo punch and otlierwise abuse people on tfie LOS. You will be ineffective if you tiy to bull-msh them. Their set position will allow them to take a powei position quickly. So we must get to our half man as soon as possible, with our bands up into the throwing lane and lake away the short ball.


E - Veer, Claw N- Reacb, Power Arm T - Reach, Power Arm A - Cut-Off/Tackle Fold. Convert Power Arm If we get a soft set (kick slide), we will bave more options in our arsenal to call upon, Tbe bull-rtisb is certainly one of the moves we will work out of. Many ot the great defensive line coaches with wlunn I have worked have talked about "stopping the inn on the way to the QB!" This metliod of teaching your players to take the same first step, no matter what the man on key gives you.

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Defensive l-ine Techniques and Drills From the 43 Defense

illustrates our philosophy because that first stp is always toward the QB. If you stress the .second step as the escape step, your defensive lineman will always have the opportunity to react to whatever his batde of one is giving him. You should use the fit/progression drills to help your team learn how to play out of each man block. You can again add a tackle drill, fumble drill, or pursuit drill to tbe end of each unit to extend the multiplicity of the single drill and save time. Another drill we tise every day to prepare for their battle of one keys is called tbe "Giant Drill." You don't bave to bave full pads for this drill because it starts out at balf^peed and progresses from there. I use it in botb spring and fall practices. We pair up our players (offense vs. defense) using sbields or padstbey produce the same re.sults. Tbe first time we introduce this technique, we call it "predicted," meaning we will tell them wbat type of block we are trying to defense. We teach the players how to handle each type of man block before enabling tbem to distinguish one from tbe otber. We will eventually progress to full speed, and once we have gone through all tbe different types of man blocks (drive, reach, cut-cjff, veer, pull, pass), we will run the same drills, but tbis time tbey will be "unpredicted." In this version, the coach signals to the ofFensive man what type of block to use, as well as tbe count. It is always interesting to .see bow that first step is no longer up field vs. tbe different blocks as it was when tbey knew wbat was coming in the predicted drill. This is where yonr players will learn that with an aggressive first step, they may not be in great position vs. anything other tban the drive, but tbe second step will always play you out of it and gain control of tbe blocker. In-season, this is a great time to bring the offense line down and nm the Ciant Drill. Another drill we tise to prepare our people for tbeir Battle of One Keys is set np in mucb tbe same way, but the defense will always "slide" down to a different lineman after each rep to get an opportunity to play against different Olinemen with varying degrees of experience. We call this the "Caundet Drill" and it assists us in getting our guys in great game shape because they must face five O-linemen in succession. This gives us the opportunity to see which part of their techniqtie will become lax when they get tired. You will almost always .see the stance go south until they play into shape. This is where you get to evaluate all 10 commandments in one drill! DE'S PROGRESSIONS, II; 14: You must dedicate time in your weekly practice plan to teach the defensive ends their progressions whenever their

man on (T or TE) doesn't engage them (veer). Against tecbnique (inside sbade vs. TE), our visual key is tbe TE and our pressure key is tbe tackle. Tbis means we are emphasizing a great strike on our man on (TE), but seeing tbe pressure key (Tackle) to determine where our fit is. Any time we see tbe tackle down; we will automatically control the C-Gap and look to find something coming at us, wbetber it's EB, B.S. (iuard, or bail inside (dive option). Once the tackle is down, we play the same tecbnique as the open-side defensive end in following our progression rules. If we have engaged the TE and read the tackle, whether it's a combo block or a fold block, we uill work to defeat tbe TE to bis otitside and escape, forcing the wide play back underneath. It is important for your players to imderstand tbat tbe reason we are playing outside vs. tbe tackle is because tbe LB's will work to replace onr G<iap once we do this. We will use our DE's and LB's in half-line drills to work tbe different schemes involved in tbe Power, (Counter, Option, and Outside game to belp tbem understand wbere tbe help is on defense. This gives them the confidence necessary to play aggressively lo either block. DE KEYS FROM A 7 TECH: As a defensive end, whenever you get veer, there is always another key to take you to your "fit". We work our progressions from tbe front side guard (1) to the fullback (2) and tbe backside guard (3). Note: EB also gives us our "ball inside" read if it's dive option. Our defensive ends will bend to the dive. If we are facing one back ofrense.s, our defensive ends use a technique called "Qaw." Tbis allows them to read the "mesh point" that helps take away the zone read play that many teams nm out of the spread offense. We have our ends recognize whether or not the ball is in the belly of tbe back. Most QBs, when giving the ball to the tailback in tbe bome position, will use only one band and leave tbe otber hand visible. Tbis is a "tell" tbat we will look for in film evaluation to assist our gnys in reading the mesh point. If the QB is truly running a read play from tbe gun position, we must see tbe ball in order to make our next move. The only coacbing point that must be emphasized is that the defensive end can never turn his sh(ulders. He musi keep them square to be able to react off to tbe QB on a keep play. Claw tecbniqne is de.scribed as using your inside band Ut push the veer block inside and keep our shoulders square while taking a couple of shtjffle steps to the inside, wbich allows us to get our read vs. one back sets, particularly if tbe QB is in tbe gun position. If tbe back is bome and tbe QB is under center, tbis is wbere we are able to read the off hand to assist us with the zone boot read.
Next Month: Part II